Review: Dance! Dance! Underpants!

The Basics

Title: Dance! Dance! Underpants!
Author: Bob Shea
ISBN: 9781484713792
Copyright Date: 2016
Publisher: Disney Hyperion
Reader Brand: N/A
Level: N/A
Series: Ballet Cat (The Totally Secret Secret)


Ballet Cat is ready to do some super-high leaps to finish her show. But her friend Butter Bear does not seem to want to leap — is there a real reason that her friend doesn’t want to leap?

The second Ballet Cat book in the series continued in the same fashion. There is a secret to uncover in this beginning reader. The back of the book says that it is a mystery and I can almost see this building as a friendship + mystery series. Once again, I had a little bit of problems with the color changes. But I thought it was much improved over the first edition. The background colors remain consistent for several pages in a row and both Ballet Cat and Butter Bear have their own dialogue box colors which largely do not change. (Ballet Cat’s do once towards the end when the background becomes pink.) I was absolutely in love with the underwear though.

Text is easy to understand and the illustrations are where this book really shines. I love the expressions on Ballet Cat and Butter Bear’s faces throughout the text.

Definitely recommended for libraries, in particular Illinois libraries since the first book is on the 2018 Monarch Nominees list.

Review: I Really Like Slop

The Basics

Title: I Really Like Slop!
Author: Mo Willems
ISBN: 9781484722626
Copyright Date: 2015
Publisher: Disney Hyperion
Reader N/A
Level: N/A
Series: Elephant and Piggie


Piggie has some slop and she really wants Gerald to try it. Will he work up the courage to try something new?

The illustrations of this beginning reader series are really what shines. Piggie and Gerald are so expressive that you know exactly what the character is thinking/feeling which is so important for a beginning reader to see spelled out.

That being said, I Really Like Slop! didn’t work for me. While I can see many children relating to the struggle to try something new, Piggie’s line of “Eating slop is part of pig culture” made me stop and think about cultural foods and how often they are said to be “gross” and “weird” by children. I was pleased that Gerald tried it, but the joke for me didn’t resonate. I thought it might make children who eat different food than their peers feel othered.

Obviously, this book is a must for Elephant and Piggie fans in the library. But I don’t think it will become one that I champion and hand-sell.

Review: I Will Take a Nap!

The Basics

Title: I Will Take a Nap!
Author: Mo Willems
ISBN: 9781484716304
Copyright Date: 2015
Publisher: Disney Hyperion
Reader Brand: N/A
Level: N/A
Series: Elephant and Piggie


Gerald wants to take a nap, but Piggie keeps interrupting his nap! Will this tired and cranky elephant ever be able to fall asleep and get his nap?

This is the first Elephant and Piggie that felt a bit like a reach to me. I thought the set-up of the joke and twist was fine until the twist was revealed. Piggie having a floating turnip head to prove that Gerald was dreaming the whole time was a bit too much for me. And this might me being a stodgy old adult. I haven’t had a chance to read this in front of a proper test audience. Turnip heads might result in hysterical child laughter. I don’t know yet!

I did think that the green background helped provide context clues to readers that Gerald was dreaming. I was wondering if the average child would know what a turnip looked like and whether or not that would be a difficult word for the kids. Otherwise, the words are just on par for what a beginning reader is looking for. As always, the uncluttered background is wonderful for readers just learning to decode words and the pictures provide enough support to the text.

Review: Ballet Cat The Totally Secret Secret

The Basics

Title: Ballet Cat The Totally Secret Secret
Author: Bob Shea
ISBN: 9781484713785
Copyright Date: 2015
Publisher: Disney Hyperion
Reader Brand: N/A
Level: N/A
Series: The first!


Ballet Cat and Sparkles the Pony are deciding what to play today when two secret secrets are revealed that may change their friendship forever!

I’ve been waiting for this book since I found out about in January. Bob Shea is one of my favorite picture books artists and I had hoped that his humor would translate well to the beginning reader arena. And I think it more than did. Shea’s jokes shine in the beginning reader format making me laugh out loud.

The text can occasionally be distracting as the speech bubbles change color randomly instead of depending on which character is speaking. For those used to Elephant and Piggie books, they may think that more characters are speaking than are in the book.

I love the bright colors and illustrations and I know that kids will too. Highly recommended for all libraries.

Review: Loud Louie

The Basics

Title: Loud Louie
Author: Sheila Sweeny Higginson
ISBN: 9781423164562
Copyright Date: 2013
Publisher: Disney Press, Disney/Hyperion
Reader Brand: World of Reading
Level: Level Pre-1
Series: Doc McStuffins (All Stuffed Up, Blame It On the Rain, Brave Dragon, Brontosaurus Breath, Caught Blue-Handed, Starry Starry Night)


There are a lot of pluses with a beginning reader series based on a popular franchise. Children are already familiar with phrases (“Toys, go stuffed”) and words/names (Hallie, Stuffy, stethoscope, tweezers). Children are more motivated to read a new story with their favorite character.

There are reasons I really like Doc McStuffins as a franchise. Doc is a girl of color just being a little girl which is important in my diverse community. Doc is also a pioneer of STEAM! She’s using science and solving problems on her own without the help of an adult, although her mother (a doctor) is obviously a role model.

This beginning reader series has rebus pictures embedded in the text. Most of the words substituted are names for characters. I did find it a little bit strange that the word “bed” was one of the rebus words while harder words like telephone were not. (Also, telephone and cell phone were used interchangeably.)

All in all, I felt that this reader was a solid addition to the series. A definite purchase for communities with Doc fans.

Series to Know: Elephant & Piggie

Series Info

The first five books in the “Elephant and Piggie” series.


  1. Today I Will Fly! (2007)
  2. My Friend Is Sad (2007)
  3. I Am Invited to a Party! (2007)
  4. There Is a Bird On Your Head (2007)
  5. I Love My New Toy (2008)
  6. I Will Surprise My Friend (2008)
  7. Are You Ready to Play Outside? (2008)
  8. Watch Me Throw the Ball (2009)
  9. Elephants Cannot Dance (2009)
  10. Pigs Make Me Sneeze (2009)
  11. I Am Going! (2010)
  12. Can I Play Too? (2010)
  13. We Are In a Book! (2010)
  14. I Broke My Trunk! (2011)
  15. Should I Share My Ice Cream? (2011)
  16. Happy Pig Day! (2011)
  17. Listen to My Trumpet (2012)
  18. Let’s Go for a Drive (2012)
  19. A Big Guy Took My Ball (2013)
  20. I’m a Frog! (2013)
  21. My New Friends Is So Fun (2014)
  22. Waiting Is Not Easy! (2014)

Publisher: Disney Hyperion

Links: Pigeon Presents Elephant & Piggie [2013 Party Kit] || World of Elephant & Piggie [Kit] || Author Site

Awards: 2008 Geisel Medal (for There Is a Bird On Your Head), 2009 Medal (for Are You Ready to Play Outside?), 2011 Geisel Honor (for We Are In a Book!), 2012 Geisel Honor (for I Broke My Trunk!), 2013 Geisel Honor (for Let’s Go For a Drive), 2014 Geisel Honor (for A Big Guy Took My Ball), 2015 Geisel Honor (for Waiting Is Not Easy!), 2009 Monarch Nominee (for Today I Will Fly!), 2013 Monarch Nominee & Second-Place Award (for We Are In A Book!), 2008 Cybils Award (for I Love My New Toy & 2008 Cybils Finalist (for I Will Surprise My Friend!), 2009 Cybils Award (for Watch Me Throw the Ball!), 2010 Cybils Award (for We Are In a Book!), 2011 Cybils Award (for I Broke My Trunk!), 2013 Cybils Finalist (for A Big Guy Took My Ball!), 2014 Cybils Finalist (for My New Friend Is So Fun!)

Reviews: Horn Book, Publishers Weekly, School Library Journal, Library Media Connection Reviews


Elephant & Piggie is one of the first series you should point beginning readers to. Stories are easy to understand through Willems’s expressive illustrations. One of my favorite ways the books help children to understand dialogue is that Gerald(Elephant)’s words are always in a gray speech bubble while Piggie’s are always in pink. When other characters are introduced, each character has their own colored speech bubble as well.

The series builds vocabulary as it goes on. In Today I Will Fly!, readers first learn “fly” and then “flew” and “flying” later on in the story. I think this is particularly helpful for beginning readers who might be struggling to understand past/present tenses.

The first Elephant and Piggie book, Today I Will Fly! has 41 unique words while the most recent, Waiting Is Not Easy! has 72 unique words. As with every series, the range of unique words and difficulty level can fluctuate, so I’ve provided the Lexile range and Accelerated Reader ranges. Series range for Lexile: 0(BR)-240 and Accelerated Reader: 0.5-1.3.

[This is a case where I feel that Lexile & AR may be doing beginning readers a great disservice by having such low ranges. A lot of beginning readers may test out of the ranges far before they are ready to leave Piggie and Gerald behind.]


I feel like this is a case where I cannot be unbiased. Elephant and Piggie feel like dear friends to me after I’ve seen how the kids at both of my libraries adore them.

The humor in these books is funny to both children and adults. I have seen a room of kids crack up at “Banana!” in We Are In a Book! when just a few hours ago the librarians were in stitches practicing our reader’s theater version of the same scene. (And speaking of reader’s theater — if you’ve never done these books as a reader’s theater piece, you are missing out. We just read Waiting Is Not Easy as a form of stress relief during our last department meeting because we’re changing our ILS.)

As with all series, I know that other readers have felt like some of the sparkle of Elephant and Piggie may be leaving. I, personally, do not feel that way. I thought for a brief moment that Waiting Is Not Easy might have become my new favorite this past month, but I still think the joy of “Banana” cannot be topped.

Dates to Remember

I Will Take A Nap! — the next installment in the series — will be out on 6.2.15! Mark your calendars now!